Posted tagged ‘Alabama Media Professionals’

Meet a Member: Meredith Cummings

January 16, 2018
When you talk about amazing NFPW members, remember the name Meredith Cummings. She just completed a term as president of Alabama Media Professionals. She also spent six months in 2017 traveling 10,000 miles by car to chronicle American Journalism. The University of Alabama named her an Innovation Scholar in Residence so she could chronicle journalism for her #followmylede project. She has written an outstanding blog about her adventures (see link below). She is another unique and unbelievable NFPW member.
Name: Meredith Cummings
Meredith Cummings in her office at University of Alabama.

Meredith Cummings in her office at University of Alabama

City and State: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Alabama Media Professionals, immediate past president of AMP
Tell us a little about you.
For over 20 years I’ve worked in print, web, and multimedia reporting. I now teach at the University of Alabama in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media where I supervise production for our WVUA-TV newsroom and coordinate our JCM social media. I am a freelance journalist and immediate past president of the Society of Professional Journalists Alabama Chapter. I currently write for and Medium, among other publications. My passions are the three non profit groups I direct, the National Elementary Schools Press Association as well as the Alabama Scholastic Press Association and the Multicultural Journalism Program. Both groups help K-12 students create better journalism in all of its forms. I have four cats (yes I’m that lady) and one daughter, Isabel, 15. I’m also just realizing that I told you about my cats before my child, so there’s that. 
Any career advice you would give? 
Be open to any possibility. If anyone had told me when I entered college that I would be a journalist, I would have laughed at them, then slapped them silly. I was too shy to talk to strangers and never wanted to be a reporter. Boy, things can change.
Which talent would you most like to have? 
I would love to be one of those talented people who can easily speak multiple languages. Sadly, I’ve just never been great at picking up other languages without tons and tons of work and studying.
Meredith Cummings with Big Al. Roll Ride, y'all

Meredith Cummings with Big Al. Roll Tide, y’all

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? 

Sweet home, Alabama. I love the South.
What book are you reading? 
Barbarian Days is an incredible book about surfing without really being about surfing. (It should be noted that I have no interest in surfing. That’s how good this book is.) It’s written by William Finnegan, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and is possibly one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read. I listened to it on Audible and loved it so much I’m reading it now. His ability to use language is astounding. I’m also reading journalist Ariel Levy’s new book, The Rules Do Not Apply, which is incredible so far.
Meredith Cummings with Kermit

Meredith Cummings with Kermit

What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

I love The Muppets (Kermit started as a broadcast reporter, don’t forget.) I can twirl fire batons. I collect PEZ dispensers. I recently completed one of the things I’m most proud of ever: My Follow My Lede Project that took me to newsrooms around the country. I road tripped 10,000 miles to chronicle journalism in America in 2017. Now I need a book publisher. Any takers? 
Why are organizations like NFPW important? 
I love NFPW because the members inspire me. I participate in NFPW as well as the Society of Professional Journalists because I meet such talented people who are not afraid to help me learn. I feel comfortable asking them questions (imagine that – a journalist asking questions!) without needing to apologize for my deficiencies. We’re all in it together to help each other learn.
Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc. 
I am @merecummings on all social media and blog for as well as Medium.

Meet a member: Verna Gates

January 17, 2017
Verna Gates

Verna Gates

The Alabama team is hard at work finalizing plans for this September’s NFPW conference in Birmingham. Verna Gates is a bundle of energy and is known for being a hard worker. She also has a talent in putting great professional tours together. She is using that talent to plan the NFPW pre and post tour in Alabama. She’s a character and participants should have a great time exploring Alabama. Meet this outstanding member and then register for the conference tours. 

Verna Gates

City and State: Birmingham, Alabama

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Alabama Media Professionals, COA 2009, Alabama, and  runner up National COA

Years a member of NFPW: 19

Tell us a little about you.

I was born with too much energy. My interests range from journalism to storytelling to ethnobotany (cultural study of plants).

My career started when I called a new cable news service every day until they let me answer the phones for two days. I left four years later. That’s how I landed on the start-up crew of CNN. My career has been a fabulous adventure. I was a stringer for TIME Magazine, Reuters, The Guardian, and still work for an NPR station as a commentator and special correspondent. When Reuters closed its Southeast bureau, I lucked out when I popped into the Alabama Department of Tourism to visit a friend. I found myself inviting my journalist friends on press trips to my beloved home state. It is a blast! And it is a lot more fun taking people to eat haute cuisine, drink fine wine and spin around in Space Camp than it is to cover tornadoes and felony trials.

The science part of my brain founded a non-profit in 2006, Fresh Air Family, that teaches outdoor environmental biology to kids and families. We cover the state, but are based at the second largest urban park in the nation with 1045 acres. In 2016, my tiny staff of three, plus as-needed naturalists, served 1,164 kids in our award-winning Gross Out Camp (it’s science but please don’t tell the kids) and 1,328 kids in our school field trip program, and 8,000 people on weekend field trips. In our camp program, nearly 60 percent of the kids come on scholarships. We work hard to change the world!

I am also a storyteller, having won the Biggest Liar in Alabama contest, twice. It is a tall-tale competition, but in the South, we call it what it is, lying. It is something I do just for fun. With my ethnobotany, I also speak quite frequently on plants and botany.

As I said, too much energy!


Verna Gates in Bermuda.

Any career advice you would give?

Always, always give it your best. When you always do your best, people notice. And they call you. TIME, Reuters, The Guardian and NPR – all called me.  So did Alabama Tourism. And keep re-inventing yourself. I must be on the 10th upgrade by now!

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to sing well.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I choose to live in the heart of American culture — the Deep South. Where we don’t hold back on the butter in the batter, we still hold doors open, and the kids say “yes, ma’am.” Alabama is also number 5 in biodiversity in the nation and for a nature nerd, it is nirvana!

What book are you reading?

I have a review copy of Hairy, Scary and Mostly Merry Fairies — a nature book for kids.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I played first bass in the all-state orchestra in North Carolina when I was a sophomore in high school. And I have won the lottery three times. I have the $16 to prove it!

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I get great leads, great info and have made lifelong friends. As a single person, my affiliate has been so supportive. When I had major surgery, they organized a dinner caravan that was a life-saver.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc. and Verna Gates on Facebook.